Uncertain of what to expect, I was delighted as we circled the town looking for a car park. High stone walls and glimpses through arches of paved lanes leading uphill through San Gimignano are a charismatic and dramatic sight.

Tourists from all corners of the world bustle along thoroughfares and although modern businesses occupy the arcades, it’s like stepping back to a bygone era.

Shop proprietors selling local produce, boars’ meat and associated items, pasta, spices, and dried petals for sprinkling on salads, offered samples. Drawn into Nino and Friends with the window display of a huge chocolate fountain, the handmade chocolate tasted particularly scrumptious. As usual, in Italy, there are many leatherworks, the smell of animal hide exuding from entrances appealing, and the selection of bags vast, with prices ranging from reasonable to luxurious. As you have probably guessed, I had quite a shopping spree.

It’s famous for its fifteen surviving towers, built by San Gimignano’s affluent families who competed to build the highest and most magnificent. Centuries later, they still arouse wonder with the added benefit of offering cool shadiness. There are many piazzas; favourite of all is the enchanting Piazza Della Cisterna. A large triangular-shaped meeting place bordered by rustic and grand buildings, including some of the towers and, in the middle, a travertine fountain. It links to the town’s largest square, Piazza Duomo, with its churches, series of steps, murals and a museum.

From the Medieval town’s walls, the countryside views are stunning. The panorama of lush fields dotted with brownish-red roofed villas beside cypress trees pricking the sky was enhanced by the notes of buskers playing saxophone and guitar when we were there.

Here and there, clothes blow in the breeze on minimal washing lines looped from windows. I thought of locals, making the best of small spaces. Happy to share their precious neighbourhood. I admired one petite segment of ground blocked off with roses, cacti and geraniums. Under a white parasol, two chairs overlook the Elsa Valley – an idyllic spot, but even more so in the evening when visitors have left and peace reigns once more.

Until next time,
Sue. X